It was only a matter of time: with 39 million Americans already using a "smart speaker" in their homes, Amazon — the creator of the Echo and its voice assistant Alexa — has created a new version aimed specifically at children.
The new Echo Dot Kids Edition, available on May 9 for $80, plans to help you entertain and educate your kids by playing music, answering questions, telling jokes, and reading stories — all with younger ears in mind. In fact, one of the buzzy selling points of the new device? It promotes politeness by encouraging little ones to say "please" and "thank you."
Although it's essentially the same software as regular versions of the Dot, this one comes with a durable case in one of three striking colors — red, green, or blue. Of course, that's not the only thing that sets this device apart from the original. It comes with one year of FreeTime Unlimited (which costs $3 per month thereafter) that provides access to more than 300 kid-friendly Audible books, thousands of songs on ad-free radio stations, and educational content from the likes of Disney and National Geographic.
Not so great for kids, but a saving grace for parents who've had to hurriedly cancel a credit card order of 39 dollhouses or a long-distance call to China: kids won't be able to use this device to shop with their voice or to place phone calls outside the house.
All these helpful features don't necessarily answer the question as to whether your kids actually need an Alexa. Still, proponents think voice-operated technology means less time spent on screens.
Perhaps most important for parents concerned about adding yet another layer of technology to their kids' lives, Amazon also allows parents to control the speaker's usage. They can schedule when the device is locked, like during bedtime, set daily limits, and review activity, down to every single request, on an "Amazon Parent Dashboard" app.
Still, all these helpful features don't necessarily answer the question as to whether your kids actually need an Alexa personal assistant. Some worry this uncharted territory will have developmental consequences, while proponents think voice-operated technology means less time spent on screens.
Either way, Amazon is striving to prove its good intentions to families. With recent data breaches having society more concerned about privacy, Amazon has said it doesn't plan to collect personal data from children and won't share identifiable information with third parties.
The question remains: whether or not you've got an Echo in your home, would you buy one specially made for your children? Read on for more of the Echo Dot Kids Edition features.